Okay, so you know how on Top Chef these amazing high quality chefs are always screwing up dessert, like they can’t make a friggin’ cookie without it being a disaster of epic proportions. And their excuse is always “I didn’t go to pastry school, I’m a savory chef.” Well I always kind of thought that was a cop out, and I still do, because a great chef should be a great chef, no excuses. I do however have some new-found sympathy for them and I think I’ve pinpointed why they are so terrible at making sweet treats. My theory is that seasoned cooks get into a rhythm when preparing a meal, which is very different than the rhythm baking requires. Baking is all about precision and science. Cooking is more about experimenting and building flavors as you go. In baking you kind of get one shot to get it right, there is very little wiggle room. It also takes a lot of focus. While cooking you can be working on 10 different things at once. If you can’t focus on your reduction at the moment, just turn the heat down and it will wait until your ready to deal with it. But in baking you can’t tell your soufle to wait while you stir your caramel sauce. In a way you need to ratchet yourself back a bit and hone your focus. But great chef’s don’t ratchet it back, they go all out, they take risks, and they think on their feet. So maybe the mark of a great chef is being a terrible baker.
This is lesson I learned after trying to make 6 different kinds of holiday cookies for my mom’s coworkers…in one afternoon. My rationale was that I had made 6 different dishes in the same amount of time and that I would be using some ingredients for more than one batch of cookies. Oh and I had my little sister as a helper. But my eyes were bigger than my…um abilities and in short I screwed up…a lot. My seven layer bars didn’t congeal, we forgot the Hershey kiss on the peanut butter cookies, and I burnt the peppermint pinwheels. The sugar cookies came out well and so did the peppermint bark, but I was pretty disappointed in my overall performance.
What if I had cooked a meal and messed up all the side dishes!? I was feeling pretty down until I remembered the dessert disasters on Top Chef like Marcel’s bacon avocado ice cream or Ilan’s chocolate and chicken liver. Those were great chefs and they made really bad desserts. Everything ended well enough, my mom’s co-workers still got some yummy treats and I diluted myself into thinking that my snafus that were actually a badge of honor. The better the chef the worse the baker and on that day…I was a really bad baker.
7 layer bars – I wasn’t crazy about the recipe, the bars totally fell apart
White and Dark Chocolate Peppermint bark – When I forgot to but the Hershey kisses on the cookies I melted them down and made dark chocolate peppermint bark using the same directions
Pinwheels – They were a lot of work, but if they hadn’t been burnt they would have looked really pretty.
Sugar Cookies – I used the basic recipe from the Pinwheels
Peanut Butter Thumbprints – I used the Betty Crocker bag mix and forgot to top them with the kisses when I pulled them out of the oven